Friday, October 27, 2023
By Gil Tisnado
I could tell you I was born on a dark and stormy Halloween night; however, being born in San Diego that would be a lie. My mom with her Jeanne Crain/Gene Tierney brunette movie star looks was hoping for a boy, especially after giving birth to two girls. My dad, who looked like a Mexican John Garfield, was just excited and nervous with the prospect of being a first time father.
After a successful delivery, I was cleaned and ready for inspection. The doctor and nurses, although startled by what they saw, put on their best stoic medical profession faces. I was brought to my mom’s side. She was thrilled and elated that her dream of having a boy came true. She slowly removed the baby blankets to view her boy wonder and then began to scream, “Nurse! Nurse! What’s wrong with him.”
The nurse knowing full well what was wrong said, “Calm down, Mrs. Tisnado. What is it?”
My mom pointed to me and stuttered, “The, the…hair, the…hair!”
Fantasy just met reality or should I say fantasy just met the ugly reality of what I looked like. Apparently, I had so much excessive black hair everywhere, on my back, chest, and bottom. One of nurses in the corner of the room whispered, “Gorilla Baby!” While one of the other nurses muttered, “More like Son of Kong.” The doctor was summoned to calm my hysterical mother.
“Doctor, Doctor, will the hair ever go away” my mom cried out. I’m sure she was wondering how much electrolysis treatments would be for a baby, and how soon treatments could begin.
The doctor reassured my mom. “Don’t worry Mrs. Tisnado. The hair will eventually fall away. He’s just extraordinarily hairy.” I was then quickly covered up. My parents embraced and comforted each other, deciding they would love me regardless of my hairy condition.
It was time for me to go home and meet my golden blonde sisters; Marie age five and Ginger age four. They were so excited to see their new baby brother until they discovered I resembled Cheetah from the Tarzan movies. Ginger immediately ran to her bedroom crying. Outspoken, precocious little Marie pleaded, “Mommy, can’t you take him back to the hospital and trade him for another baby.” No, my mom told her. I was there to stay. This handsome family with movie star looks would just have to adjust to the hairy creature that was thrust upon them on Halloween 1949.
To this day my sister says, “You know from the very beginning there was something very odd about you.” Hey, it could have been worse. At least the folks didn’t bring home “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
"A Movie Kind of Love" (Part Two)
By Gil Tisnado
Our newest contributor to the Galaxy Nostalgia Network blog posts, Gil Tisnado, shares with us part two of his premier story.
In 2014, I was driving alone from Las Vegas to Laughlin. I opened the sunroof and enjoyed the desert heat. The Nevada desert reminded me of the many trips that Bill, my soon-to-be stepdad, and I used to take when we commuted regularly between Las Vegas and San Diego in ’61. We were living in Vegas so Mom could fulfill the six-week residency requirement for her Nevada divorce from my dad.
Our ’56 white Ford station wagon had no air conditioning, and we were constantly wind-whipped by the hot desert wind, but still managed to laugh and share good times. A special treat was to always stop in Baker for homemade Strawberry pie. Once in San Diego, we would pick up Bill’s unemployment check and then go to lunch and a movie without any of the girls to influence our choice.
Over forty years later, I reflected on these times and had a desert epiphany. Driving on Highway 95 to Laughlin, it suddenly hit me and had to pull over to the very next rest stop. I called my mom and spoke rapidly into the phone, “Hey Mom! I think I just had an epiphany about Bill.”
I continued, “Remember how Bill and I used to take all those trips to San Diego from Vegas? Well, I was just thinking about Bill so strongly. I was thinking about him dancing with you, all the times I used to hang out with him at his work, and all the endless conversations we had together. I realized he was more than a stepdad. He was my pal. And Mom, I finally figured out something—that so much of who I am is because of Bill—our irreverent sense of humor, our mutual appreciation and respect for women, and our positive view of life. I just can’t believe it’s taken me over forty years to realize this! And yet, if you think about it, Bill was actually only in our lives for about ten years.”
It started to get very hot in that Nevada rest stop, but Mom and I continued to reminisce about Bill over the phone. We recalled the ten years of good times, the one-liners, laughter, and of course—the dancing. We said our goodbyes and I continued my desert trip—thinking of his huge impact and influence on my life—and how much I still missed and loved that man.
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
We Welcome Gil Tisnado:
Galaxy Nostalgia Network is pleased to welcome Gil Tisnado as a regular contributor to our blog posts. Gil's wonderful stories of his life, from his childhood to his adult years have charmed readers who regularly see his stories on Facebook. His ability to engage readers within his stories makes you feel you were right there with him. As a fellow baby boomer, we can relate to many of the nostalgic anecdotes he shares with us. Here, Gil introduces himself, and tells us how he began writing about his life. He follows with the first of his stories, "A Movie Kind of Love".
I think I may have always been a writer, but just never realized it. When I was a boy, I swore that when I grew up, I would write a tell-all book about all the things I witnessed in our home and couldn’t reveal. “Don’t tell the family business” was our daily affirmation. My book would become a mega-best seller, just like Peyton Place. But somehow that idea got pushed aside about the same time I started appearing in “Tiny Town Ranch” a weekly live TV children’s variety show in San Diego for three years. However, at thirteen, I was a show biz has-been.
At fourteen, I fell in love with my high school sweetheart who would later become my wife. Suddenly I was a husband and teenage dad at seventeen. Miraculously, we’re still married fifty-seven years later. Unlike me, my wife kept the hundreds of letters I wrote to her in high school, which is a pretty thorough documentation of my teenage years. In my twenties, thirties, and forties, I kept extensive journals, not because I was a writer, but because I found it was a good way to help me figure out all this growing up business.
For twenty years I was a graphic designer/art director, culminating in having my own design firm. Through volunteering with a non-profit organization working with homeless and at-risk children, I was inspired to change careers in midlife and became an elementary school teacher. When I retired from teaching in 2012 at age sixty-two, I began taking a memoir writing class. Suddenly I found my new passion: writing. Since that time, I’ve written about 300 vignettes and short stories. I like to say that they are 300 stories in search of a book.
I love writing about my childhood, especially growing up in San Diego. Incidentally, I’m long past the need to write that Peyton Place type revenge book; I think age and therapy has gotten me past that need. Instead, I like to focus on the best and golden nostalgic times of my baby boomer youth. I was honored when asked to become a contributor on Galaxy Moonbeam Night Site, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing my stories with you.
“A Movie Kind of Love” (Part One)
My dad left when I was ten. Being surrounded with two sisters and my mom, I knew the world through the lens of very strong womanhood. For a short time, I was the “man of the house” which meant I had to do all the crappy work. (Yeah, literally the crappy work of cleaning up the enormous piles of poop from our large Lassie-lookalike Collie dog.) Plus, if there was a strange noise outside, I was expected to go outside and check it out. Being the youngest, smallest member of the family, this made absolutely no sense to me; however, I pumped up my scrawny chest and bravely went on reconnaissance for monsters stalking outside my sisters’ windows. However, I was smart enough to always take my large, intimidating dog with me.
Things would change when Bill entered our lives—first as my mom’s boyfriend, and then as her husband. I welcomed him as my stepfather. Compared to my dad, he was a breath of fresh air. There was no doubt in my mind, why my mom would fall in love with him and prefer him to my dad. My dad was kind of a stick-in-the mud, who rarely smiled or laughed. He was usually pretty cranky and a strict disciplinarian. As an adult, I understand him better. Money was tight, and he often worked two jobs. Since English was not his first language, I think he had a hard time with me being such a precocious, fast-talking kid. Strange as it may sound, I think my dad was frustrated because he couldn’t verbally keep up with me, then out of his frustration, he used his adult power to simply shut me down.
Unlike my dad, Bill was very sophisticated. He had been an officer in the Navy, and had lived in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Bill had traveled all over the world, and had dated singer, Patti Page. While my dad was an airplane mechanic, Bill flew fighter jets. He was a bon vivant who shared great stories. But here’s the biggest difference between my dad and Bill: My dad was so concerned about me “talking back” that there wasn’t a lot of conversation between us. Bill, on the other hand, welcomed my stories. Relished them, encouraged them, and laughed whole-heartedly at my boyish adventures. Since he treated me like an adult, I always tried to rise to his level of maturity and sophistication. Bill seemed to always enjoy my company in such a relaxed way. It was such an important lesson for me to see that adults could treat children as equals. Suddenly, I had a positive image of manhood.
Before my dad left, I could always sense the tension between my mom and dad, just by observing them from the middle of the backseat of our car. Plus I can’t recall ever witnessing any signs of affection in their relationship. When Bill came into our lives, my mom suddenly blossomed. It was the simple things I noticed, like her putting her hand on the nape of his neck while he drove. And suddenly there was laughter—lots of laughter—something that was rarely heard from the adults in our house before. And of course, there was the dancing . . .
Being a very urbane and cosmopolitan guy, Bill decided to teach my mom how to dance. Besides how could he take her dancing to the Admiral Kidd Officer’s Club in Point Loma if she didn’t know how to dance?
Mom, Bill, and I would move the heavy, maple coffee table and roll up the braided area rug to transform our living room into their own personal mini-ballroom. I would be the DJ in the corner taking their song requests. Their favorite dance song was “Everyone is Somebody’s Fool” by Connie Francis. My job was to pick up the arm of the Webcor record player and replay that song from my Connie Francis album over and over. I loved watching their bodies move in perfect harmony and rhythm. But more than anything, it was a thing of beauty to see my mom so damn happy. It didn’t take a genius —or an adult—to see that these two people were passionately in love.
As a young boy curled up in the corner with my arms around my knees, I would watch Mom and Bill dance for hours. Outside of the movies, this was the first time I had observed what romantic love looked like in real life. Bill was not only affectionate towards my mom, but also warm and affectionate towards me. I guess we were both starved for affection.
Besides being charming, Bill was a handsome man. He had classic All-American good looks. When he first moved into our house, my neighborhood friends would say, “Your stepdad looks just like John Wayne.” Yeah, he kind of did. Unfortunately, like many a Marlborough Man, Bill would get throat cancer. Too much booze and endless chain-smoking would contribute to his demise. However, to the very end, he remained upbeat and positive about the future, never losing his sense of humor and his ability to hit one-liners out of the ballpark!
Bill would be the first person I ever saw suffering through the ravages of cancer. It was a long, brutal battle. Even in his last days at the San Diego V.A. Hospital, he never gave up the hope of going home and returning to life with my mom, whom he always said, “Was better looking than Marilyn Monroe.”
I was twenty and Bill was fifty-one when he died in 1970. It was a strange dichotomy to feel so young and seeing my life ahead of me, while his life had ended. I loved him and missed him, but I never realized his huge influence on my life until many years later. Of course, my favorite memory will always be of Mom and Bill dancing together in the living room of our Rolando Park home. With me sitting in the corner, thoroughly enthralled, thinking that perhaps true love really could exist . . . just like in the movies.